by Deborah Hale, historical (2000)
Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29139-6
Cecily Tyrell of The Elusive Bride is an irritatingly super-capable medieval heroine that will either make one cheer or itch to strangle her willowy neck. Put her in a cell with a spoon and she will somehow dig her way out before you even get back from your lunch break. Readers of the school of thought that medieval heroines must be passive, resigned to her fate, and hapless best stay away.
My problem with this book is not in the heroine (give me a capable heroine over a lachrymose martyr any day, perceived historical accuracy be damned), but in the hero's really irritating petty games. Which is a disappointment, as I have heard so much about this author's books.
Cecily Tyrell is now an heiress after her brother's death. She learns soon enough how precarious her situation is, as her neighbor soon turns up with an army to force her to wed him and hand over her lands. Her father is too grief-maddened to be any help. Her only hope lies in a decree by Empress Maud to marry Lord Rowan DeCourtenay. Hence she flees her holdings and her captor (told you she's an intrepid one) to look for Rowan.
Rowan and she has met long before, when Cecily is playing her failed nun-to-be routine and stumbles upon him in the woods. When he meets her again (she saving him from cutthroat bandits - see intrepid heroine above), he is intrigued. But he tells her he is Rowan's brother, and together they travel to Rowan's place.
The first two-third of this romance details Cecily and Rowan's Road Trip, as they talk and do swashbuckling medieval antics. The last third is a standard love-after-marriage-of-convenience story. Both parts are ruined by Rowan's really really stupid games.
Why won't he tell her he is Rowan? Gee, I still have no clear idea. It's not as if he's on a secret mission. During their adventures together, he learns that she and he share the same loyalty, he admires her courage and ability, and all. He is even attracted to her. So why not just come clean?
Well, I'm told later, he wants to make sure she loves him as much as he loves her first. Excuse me while I throw up.
Naturally, Cecily discovers his deceit right before the marriage. Does he apologize? No, he falls into a mad rage of jealousy instead when he perceives Cecily being too close with other men. Oh, you see, he once has a Bad Slutty Wife, and no, he can't assuage Cecily's worry that he didn't kill the first wife. Don't ask why. I'm with the dead first wife - if I'm married to him, I probably will turn to men less a control freak moron than this Rowan. Rowan single-handedly ruins this story with his inexplicable Alpha Dumbo act - and he says he loves Cecily? Call the psychiatrists, somebody.
Poor Cecily. She can be a decent heroine, and this story could have been a decent if familiar story. But thanks to Rowan's clichéd and puzzling asshole tendencies, The Elusive Bride plunges from potential keeper material at Chapter 1 to being just barely readable by Chapter 12. Silly arrogant boors are bad for my blood pressure.
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